The world is your oyster, and many possible paths can lead to your passion. That was the message more than 2,000 students learned at the recent East Kentwood Future Fair as they browsed booths staffed by representatives from 30 colleges and universities, more that 70 career vendors and four branches of the military.
Students in grades 9 through 12, many of whom are still considering what they want to do after graduation, stopped to learn about various fields, collect brochures and start thinking about jobs.
“It benefits us because, a lot of times, you never get an inside look at what businesses do,” said East Kentwood High School senior AJ Sims, who hopes to go to Western Michigan University or Grand Valley State University after two years at Grand Rapids Community College, to major in performance and drama.
During the event, however, he gathered materials from other colleges and learned about opportunities at John Ball Zoo and Life EMS. “I like to help people and I like animals,” he said.
Senior Nia Lillard, who plans to attend Grand Rapids Community College but is undecided about her career path, said the fair was a great way to see what’s out there.
“There are a lot of people who still don’t know what they want to do, and this is a great opportunity to see what’s really out there, and see the different colleges,” she said.
Senior Job Mayhue, who is attending University of Michigan next year to pursue a degree in literature science and arts, said the fair was a great place to connect with representatives from schools and industries.
“It’s a beautiful thing and it’s going to help a lot of people see what they want do to,” he said.
The fair, which has been held on a smaller scale at Crossroads Alternative High School, was a chance for students to get a sense of the array of options — many in their own backyards — for jobs, careers, college and networking. It was organized by Jessica Bradley and Donta Young, East Kentwood and Crossroads community school coordinators for Kent School Services Network; and Shelbie Spear, an AdviseMi adviser.
“We believe there are a variety of different paths to student success,” Bradley said, as students chatted with career and college representatives stationed in the field house all around her. “We essentially want to have all the opportunities that students might be interested in available to them so they can explore their interests.”
“It’s good to be able to see so many different companies here that are in Kentwood,” added Young. “It gives students an opportunity to see things they probably wouldn’t see in any other place. For students who are undecided, it points them to a direction of interest.”
Young said a lot of students aren’t looking at four-year universities, and instead want information about skilled trades and other jobs they can get out of high school, which allow them to work and pursue college or certifications.
Industries included manufacturing, medical, business, banking, energy services, information technology, criminal justice, event planning, food, hospitality, residential care, retail social work, cosmetology and engineering.
City of Kentwood representatives offered information on public works, parks and recreation, and police and fire departments. Many high-demand, high-paying job fields do not require college degrees and will cover tuition, students learned.
Future Fair attendees also took part in reverse job shadow workshops, co-organized by Junior Achievement, which allowed them to meet industry professionals from more than 30 career fields.
“There are so many fields and industries out there, I want kids to be exposed to all of them,” Bradley said.
Short-Term Jobs, Long-Term Careers, the Fair Had It All
Many companies were looking to hire, accepting résumés on the spot for summer, part-time and full-time jobs and internships. “It’s a combination of career exploration and actively recruiting,” Bradley said.